No Arms Race... It's Arms Dominance

Published: Fri 14 Dec 2001 11:28 PM
America Reaffirms to Nuke-Age
by Selwyn Manning
No Arms Race... It's Arms Dominance:
United States President George W Bush this week scrapped the Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) - in effect casting aside diplomatic restraints that prevent the superpower from pursuing an aggressive defence arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
America Reaffirms Nuke-Age: "Today, I have given formal notice to Russia, in accordance with the treaty, that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost 30 year old treaty," said President George W. Bush announcing the withdrawal from the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile treaty in the Rose Garden Dec. 13. Standing with the President are the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs Richard B. Myers (far left), Secretary of State Colin Powell (left), and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.
By March 2002, the Bush administration will be ready to begin construction of silos and a testing command centre for a futuristic and expensive U.S. anti-missile defence shield near Fairbanks in Alaska. The announcement has caused outrage from Russia, China, and members of the European Union.
Bush delivered the announcement on the Whitehouse Rose Garden, unified, and shoulder-to-shoulder during the stern announcement, with US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Chairperson of Joint Chief of Staffs Richard Myers.
Bush said: "Today, I have given formal notice to Russia, in accordance with the treaty, that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost 30 year old treaty. I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks."
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Bush's announcement is a mistake. Several senior members of the US Congress agreed. It also brought criticism from China and member states of the European Union.
Here in New Zealand Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Matt Robson said: “While we acknowledge the ABM treaty is an imperfect instrument for nuclear disarmament, our fear now is that the US decision holds the potential to see a new form of arms race based on 21st century technology, on earth and in space. It is important for all of the nuclear powers to now actively strengthen disarmament and arms control measures through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires the nuclear powers to abolish their nuclear arsenal, so we can eventually eliminate the scourge of nuclear weaponry," Matt Robson said.
But Bush stated the ABM treaty was signed at a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were deadly enemies: "The 1972 ABM treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union at a much different time, in a vastly different world. One of the signatories, the Soviet Union, no longer exists. And neither does the hostility that once led both our countries to keep thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, pointed at each other. The grim theory was that neither side would launch a nuclear attack because it knew the other would respond, thereby destroying both," Bush said.
"Today, as the events of September the 11th made all too clear, the greatest threats to both our countries come not from each other, or other big powers in the world, but from terrorists who strike without warning, or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction.
"We know that the terrorists, and some of those who support them, seek the ability to deliver death and destruction to our doorstep via missile. And we must have the freedom and the flexibility to develop effective defences against those attacks. Defending the American people is my highest priority as Commander in Chief, and I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defences," George W Bush said.
The announcement was dressed with reference to nuclear arsenal reduction agreements between the United States and Russia. It was also selective in sidestepping Putin's criticism of the US President's decision.
Bush said: "I appreciate his [Russian President Vladimir Putin's] commitment to reduce Russia's offensive nuclear weapons. I reiterate our pledge to reduce our own nuclear arsenal between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons.
"President Putin and I have also agreed that my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security. As President Putin said in Crawford, we are on the path to a fundamentally different relationship. The Cold War is long gone. Today we leave behind one of its last vestiges. But this is not a day for looking back. This is a day for looking forward with hope, and anticipation of greater prosperity and peace for Russians, for Americans and for the entire world."
But questions remain:
* How can a recommitment to a strategic nuclear defence meet with the US's commitment to Russia to reduce its nuclear arsenal?
* Does this mean the US will merely stop pointing as many missiles toward the former Soviet Union?
* Does this announcement mean a return to a full retaliatory responsive US defence policy where any threat from a 'hostile' country or economy, real or perceived, will be met with strategic and sustained nuclear strikes?
The answers are buried within the rhetoric, within the perception of threat displayed by Bush and Co on the Whitehouse Rose Garden lawn.
Colin Powell said the Russians have come to the conclusion "this action is not intended against them."
"It will be a system that goes after those irresponsible rogue states that might come up with a couple of missiles and threaten us," Powell said.
Bush's words committed to reducing "offensive strategic nuclear forces". That leaves the US able to appease the Russians and also build up a massive "defensive" nuclear arsenal that can be utilised to annihilate an aggressive nation, state, organisation, or fractionalised group, that directs a threat toward the United States through terrorist means or otherwise - particularly if that threat is carried within a "weapon of mass destruction".
A weapon of mass destruction is the very term that the United States' FBI used to describe the aircraft used in the attacks of September 11.
So, as can be distilled from this - the United States is positioning itself to be in a position to retaliate with nuclear weapons should a repeat of the events of September 11 be again used by aggressive groups, states, nations and economies against the United States or its peoples.
That does not ring reassuringly with Bush's final words: "But this is not a day for looking back. This is a day for looking forward with hope, and anticipation of greater prosperity and peace for Russians, for Americans and for the entire world."
The message is clear: the US intends to rebuild a nuclear arsenal of 21st century sophistication. It rightly does not believe this accelerates a new arms race. No other nation, state, organisation, group, or indeed individual could wish to match it. This is Superpower Nuclear Dominance.
This announcement could just be the conception of the direst threat to our existence that this planet has ever seen.
Selwyn Manning - Scoop Auckland
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Contact Selwyn Manning - Scoop Auckland
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